The Crook family pilgrimage to the Brisbane’s produce markets at Rocklea was a highlight for all four children. Raising this number of kids with one breadwinner must have been a budgeting nightmare. We snacked mainly on fruit. There were no fast food outlets or packaged treats for us in those days. We got pretty excited if a Weston’s chocolate wheaten biscuit found it’s way into the lunchbox.
Dad would yell out ‘we’re going to the markets, everyone in the car’ and there would be a mad scramble to be first in the rusty old Valiant station wagon. Lisa, the eldest and toughest, would grab her usual window seat behind Mum’s head. She was responsible for making sure that Daniel and Peter didn’t kill each other. Peter, second eldest, was also honoured with a window seat.
Daniel, of slightly hyperactive nature, was positioned safely in the centre of the bench seat. As the youngest, and seemingly of least consequence, I was relegated to the back of the wagon. I distinctly remember the smell of petrol fumes when travelling in the Valiant. A smell that would leave me feeling slightly nauseous during each trip. This exposure to lead poisoning may explain my chronic short-term memory problems and great capacity for getting lost.
Leaded petrol was the only option available at petrol stations.
Mum, a short petite woman, ruled the roost with an iron fist, barking out orders to the tribe. Dad towered over mum, 6 foot 3 inches tall, yet always knew his place as second-in-command. Mum would be the last to get in the car, fussing around like a chook with her head chopped off.
We lived at Indooroopilly, so Dad drove over the Walter Taylor bridge on the way to the suburb of Rocklea. Fascinated, we’d stretch our necks to peer at the mass of brown, strong water, which is the Brisbane river. Our journey would continue through the pretty suburbs of Chelmer and Graceville. Streets lined with lovely, shady Camphor Laurel trees.
Then passing through what seemed like the countryside we arrived at the Rocklea produce market. The place was chockers full of trucks, vans, dust and busy workers distributing box after box of fruit and vegetables from the loading bays. We loved the hectic atmosphere and the delightful, pungent smells.
Mum would dart back and forth, on the lookout for bargain boxes of oranges and crisp red apples. The sturdy looking vendors, wearing overalls and boots, would look slightly bemused as mum prattled away to them.
Occasionally, depending on the season, we would also buy mandarins, sweet peaches, apricots, plums, grapes, bananas or watermelon. Number one on my list of fruits was the mouth-watering Bowen mango, with its plump, yellow body and deliciously juicy, sweet-smelling flesh. Mangoes and other stone fruits could only be found in summer.
Dad would load the boxes of fruit into the back of the wagon. I would squeeze in next to the load. This didn’t bother me as it gave me something to hang onto as we drove home. Compulsory seat-belts hadn’t yet been invented. The smell of fresh, ripe fruit also camouflaged the smell of petrol fumes.
My brothers would be a bit overexcited by this stage and the pinching, punching and yelling would begin. My spot in the back of the Valiant was turning into prime position.
First thing mum would do when we got home was to put the kettle on the stove. After a nice cup of tea she would lie on the couch and put her feet up. The boxes of fruit would clutter up the house for days but the smells and tastes were divine.
Gabrielle Bryden (nee Crook or now that I am older – Crook Knee) 😉
note: a repost because it is summer and nearly Christmas and the cricket is on tv and the stone fruit is plentiful 😍